James Engquist, the 28-year-old Minnesota Wild fan whose jostling at the hands of Rick Rypien(notes) led to the Vancouver Canucks center getting a six-game suspension, disagrees with the NHL's decision: "In normal society, minimally, you'd be fired from the NHL."
That statement was made to Charley Walters of the Pioneer Press (Minn.) in a post-suspension interview that probably won't do Engquist any favors in the court of public opinion.
First, the big news: NHL commissioner Gary Bettman called Engquist, who said Bettman apologized and offered to treat the fan to dinner and an NHL game. (JJ From Kansas, a Detroit Red Wings blogger, with the line of the day: "NHL Punishment: Rypien gets six games for assault, fan has to go to dinner with Gary Bettman. Who really got the worst of it?")
Engquist called the move "classy," but was decidedly less impressed with what Bettman and the NHL decided with Rypien:
"If you do that to someone at work, you're minimally going to be fired from your job, with other thing ensuing, obviously. This is his job, his profession. He's kind of being let off easier than your average individual in society. It's kind of like athletes are above the law a little bit, and I was hoping they wouldn't do that.
"The NHL is basically saying that if you go in and assault someone in the stands, you're going to get only a little slap on the wrist. I'm pretty sure it's an 82-game schedule.
"That would be like me assaulting someone at work and them saying, 'why don't you just take two weeks off without pay.' I don't think that's reality."
Raise your hand if you think that, actually, that's completely within the realm of reality, given that Rypien just grabbed his shirt and didn't throw a punch?
Engquist told the paper he hasn't hired a lawyer but is looking at his legal options. And again: As much as some of his statements have been a tad hyperbolic since the incident, this is still an innocent bystander who was thrust into infamy by the actions of a paid professional who should know better. From Engquist in the Pioneer Press:
"I'm getting phone calls from Canadian radio stations, even at work," he said. "Basically even going out in public. I've gotten a lot of hate emails. I'm definitely saving all of them for records purposes."
Disagree with his approach now, but he didn't ask for this.